This is one of only two supernatural novels by prolific nineteenth-century writer Margaret Oliphant. Set in the town of Semur, in the Bourgogne region of France, it is a powerful, sombre fantasy relating the events that unfold after the settlement is besieged by the dead. A departure from her ubiquitous realistic tales of everyday middle-class Victorian life, the novel is presumably inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same name, itself widely available online and well worth seeking out. The story was well-received on publication and is the first in Oliphant’s series of ‘Tales of the Seen and Unseen’, more of which will find their way onto this blog in due course.
A Beleaguered City and Other Tales of the Seen and Unseen, edited by Jenni Calder (Canongate, 2000)
A Beleaguered City and Other Stories, edited by Mervyn Williams (Oxford University Press, 1988)
The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant, edited by Elizabeth Jay (Broadview Press, 2002)
Williams, Mervyn, Margaret Oliphant: A Critical Biography (Palgrave Macmillan, 1986)
A comprehensive annotated bibliography of secondary criticism from 1849-2005, prepared by John Stock Clarke. Also includes a thorough summary of Oliphant’s critical reception.